Expert says PH must expedite mass testing with both rapid and PCR tests

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 23) — To flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections in the Philippines, a medical expert said the government must not waste time and expedite mass testing to save more lives.

According to LabX founder Thomas Navasero, the country must test more people now with the use of both Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR and rapid antibody tests.

He added that the Philippines is already “late in the game,” hence the urgency to have more people tested.

"If we need to test a million Filipinos within 30 days during this quarantine, we'll have to do at least 25,000 to 30,000 tests per day," he stressed. "And we are presently about 3,000 to 4,000."

Two types of COVID-19 testing

The LabX founder explained to CNN Philippines on Thursday that there are two types of COVID-19 tests.

He said he would recommend the tests being produced by BGI or the Beijing Genomics Institute. BGI, according to him, is the global leader in genetics.

RELATED: LIST: Who can be tested using rapid COVID-19 test kits?

“Another strong, sensitive machine or testing method is that of Roche," he said. "They're one of the US FDA-approved test kits for RT-PCR.”

Navasero further explained that the two tests must be combined. The rapid test, he said, is the primary test, while the gene test serves as the confirmatory test.

“Well, first of all, antibody and so-called the PCR test must be combined, alright? For mass testing, the rapid test must confirm those positives with the gene test,” he said.

Possible solutions moving forward

Moving forward after the enhanced community quarantine gets lifted, Navasero emphasized the importance of implementing protocols in public such as social distancing and wearing of face masks. He also suggested people who have been tested for the virus and ended up negative, should wear “vaccine bracelets” in public.

“As we use vaccine bracelets, we may have to use some sort of tag, either electronic or not, to provide comfort to the citizens that when they enter the office, they know that their fellow employees have been tested and are negative,” he said.

Navasero added that this can bring comfort to people you can possibly interact in public places.

“At the same time, in any restaurant or supermarket, we know that our fellow Filipinos have been tested and are negative around us.”

President Rodrigo Duterte will announce Friday morning his verdict on whether the Luzon-wide quarantine will be lifted, extended, or modified.